Hi, it’s great to have you here! Alright, so in the spirit of getting the mundane questions out of the way first, tell our audience a little about yourself and where you’re from?
Hello! Thanks for having us. Michelle Crow here. I’m a mom of three little monsters and a writer. When I am not chasing the monsters or writing, I’m teaching English Composition at my local community college in East Tennessee.
Amanda here and I write under the name A. A. Warne. I live at the bottom of the Blue Mountains in Western Sydney, Australia with my husband and three children.
When did the writing bug first bite?
Michelle: When I was a child. My grandmother recently found some of my old writings and drawings. I thought I was only into doodling as a kid, but it turns out, I used to write little short stories too. When I was a teenager I wrote super emo-poetry. Finally, in 2015, I decided to write for money and found my way into freelance ghostwriting. My first client had me write a 50k novella (trashy romance) with a three-week deadline. It was AWFUL. The editing alone was so bad (and nonexistent apparently). Still, the work had awesome reviews.
Amanda: The writing bug bit after having my first child! Before the kids came into my life I was a painter and potter, but those art practices were messy and took a lot of time out of the day. Enter babies and I didn’t have time for anything creative which caused me to go mad slowly. A close friend recommended me to start reading and by the end of the series, I started writing.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Michelle: I enjoy the escape the most. Escapism is the reason I still videogame, well that and it’s fun! My husband and I are really big into gaming, but we are also massive bibliophiles. So, for me, writing is another area of escape from reality, only I get to call the shots in the worlds that I have made. Outside of that, creating characters is my next favorite part. I love to develop characters and I would even say (and A. A. Warne would agree), that characterization is my strongest writing skill. Oh, and research. I love to research random topics and ideas. I have this pirate-witch in space series that I have mapped out, but I have 0 working knowledge of ships or their mechanics, add the space element and I have some reading to do.
Amanda: Writing allows the world to enter my imagination – it’s vast and you can easily get lost, but luckily the books are like a map to navigate once inside. Having writing as a art practice, allows me to push my imagination much further than I would normally. I have to question things. Shape characters and most of all think outside the box. Without writing, I don’t think my mind would have let my imagination be so powerful.
Are you a plottter or are you more of a pantser?
Michelle: I’m definitely the pantser in this duo, well, in all of my writing. I have tried plotting, but I always struggle with outlines. I have a few ‘outlines’ for books just sitting collecting dust. They need attention because they are as basic as they can get, but I really struggle in that department. Usually, I will start with a character and build out from there, but I do want to become a better planner in the writing realm.
Amanda: And I’m the plotter! I can go off track and find new avenues but it can only be a detour and not a full reworked ending. Michelle and I can compliment each other like that. Michelle will throw random ideas at me and I’ll put them into coherent order and justify the ordering into a plotline. I don’t know how I do it. It’s an ability that comes naturally.
What drew you to Speculative Fiction and/or Paranormal Romance?
Michelle: I have always been a fantasy fan; whether sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, metaphysical, you name it. I love them all! I’m going to be perfectly honest here and say I didn’t really know what ‘speculative’ meant in the way of genres until I met A. A. Warne. I used to work for Borders Books when they were in business and even though I am an avid reader, I guess I stuck with either fantasy or sci-fi, without really dipping into any of the other genres or subgenres. (Okay, and some romance.) I think the draw to speculative fiction is being able to flip what’s accepted as normal or in existence and give otherwise mundane places and situations a fantastical slant. I mean, my city would be a lot cooler if an underground alien race were plotting beneath the surface…just saying.
Amanda: I stumbled across speculative fiction accidently. I was growing frustrated with the genre restrictions trad publishers were placing on authors. If stories didn’t fit neatly into the genre than it wouldn’t be considered a viable story for publication. But I’m not an in-the-box thinker. In fact, I hate the box. The box has been done way too many times before where we’re left to reinvent the box. Stuff that! I’m throwing the box out. The box doesn’t exist anymore and from here on out, my stories will push limits, be exactly what they need to be within themselves and be defined as speculative fiction.
Which authors have influenced your writing along the way?
Michelle: We are a family of ‘Sandersonites’. I just Googled that term and now I have some forums to jump into. Brandon Sanderson is amazingly talented. We LOVE him in our household. My husband turned me onto Sanderson one day and I have never looked back. And of course, J.K. Rowling. I love that woman. Not just her writing, but her background, especially since I can relate to her backstory. Some other authors that I really admire, my husband, A. A. Warne, all of the #Rogues from our little Facebook #RogueCastle, and I also love another indie author; Jenna Moreci. Jenna has a hilarious YouTube channel for writers and I am reading her work The Savior’s Champion, it’s pretty amazing already. All of them have influenced me in some way or another, not to mention all of the other authors (trad and indie alike) that I have enjoyed over the years. With Sanderson, it’s his incredible worldbuilding (which I can say the same about my husband and also about A.A. Warne), with J. K. Rowling it’s her unbelievably magical imagination, and with all of those rogues, their support and words of wisdom…and their critiques…
Amanda: I’m a huge fan of Karen Miller. Her Godspeaker series was amazing. I can’t tell you how many times I read it but that series inspires me to write. George R. R. Martin is also another amazing writer. Every time I pick up his books, I can only get through three chapters at a time and then I have to find a pen and a piece of paper and start writing myself. It’s like the magic jumps off the page and forces me to create.
Have you ever used a word or said a word aloud so many times it’s lost all meaning?
Michelle: I feel like I say ‘he said’, ‘she said’ a lot, but I don’t. I just feel like that is something a lot of us writers really struggle with is the dialogue tags and all of the in-between action sequences. As a mom of three, I say ‘no’ so much it doesn’t even serve a purpose anymore. They never listen anyway. Other than that, I can’t really think of a word. I am sure if I ran through any of my docs I would find something overused. It isn’t until I am reading through the third or fiftieth time that I catch the overused words that are losing all meaning. 🙂
Amanda: I totally agree with Michelle. We think we’re aware of what we’re doing until someone pulls us up on something. Then we’re hyperaware of our own biases, plus the person that pulled us up. In actual fact, we’ve over thinking the process and most likely no one else would be noticing what we’re focused on. Since this self-revelation, I now turn off my brain and just write. I write badly, boring, ecstatic, hungry, bloated, sick and in my prime health. Words on the page first, think about everything second. It helps with finishing the book.
Has there ever been a book you couldn’t finish? Why or why not?
Michelle: There have been several books, but that might also be because of my reading style. I am always reading, at a minimum, three books at any given time. So, I will go to the library and pick up five or six titles, mostly based on their cover design, the back synopsis, and the first sentence of the first page. Then, I get home and start reading on each one until one sticks out over the rest. If that happens, I will read that book cover to cover and then move onto a new book (usually returning the other four or five titles and probably never reading them again). So, there have been hundreds of books that I haven’t finished, excluding textbooks.
Amanda: I have a limit to content. If a topic hits my nerve, I put the book away. As a fantasy writer, I want to be constantly intrigued by the characters and the world they’re in. I’m not interested in erotica or even romance. I’d rather have characters jump to other planets, fight wars, and free people.
If you could go back in time who would you go back in time to see?
Michelle: First, I would want to see my grandfather. He passed away in 2015 and I would really love to see him again. If I could go back in time though, I would want to go all the way back to the very beginning, just so I can actually know the truth about it all (how we all began). Other than that, I think I would rather keep my working knowledge of any historical figures I might admire to the history books. I would hate to learn that they were actually horrid people.
Amanda: I would go back to the very beginning of humanity so I can have a first-hand account of how us humans came to be. Was it evolution? Were we planted here like a seed? Or did we planet or even solar system hop?
What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone who is just getting started on their author journey?
Michelle: My first piece of advice is to not get discouraged by criticism. If you let criticism bring you down then you will want to give up and pack it all in, which you should never do! Just keep writing. Find yourself a support group of writers, especially those who write in a similar genre or to a similar audience, and make friends with them. I know that the vast majority of us are very anti-social in nature and that is okay, HELLO INTERNET. 🙂 Just keep writing. Submit, submit, submit. Make sure you study up on the different publishing avenues to figure out which one is right for you and don’t be afraid to dabble in short stories, microfiction even. There are oodles of competitions, magazines, and paying markets out there, so get out and do some research.
Amanda: Listen to your gut – it’s the only on that tells you the truth. Turn the world off and buckle down, without words on the page, you’re not a writer. Make a plan, no matter how ambitious and everyday take a step towards it or to support it. Don’t give up when people discourage you from your plan – it’s not their plan. They have their own. So therefore, don’t show your plan to others unless they’re going to help you in making your plan a reality.
Do you have anything you’d like to share?
For centuries, Earth has served as the battleground for a secret war between a reptilian alien species and the clandestine human organization dedicated to eradicating this extraterrestrial threat. But when a single woman becomes the focal point of this brutal conflict, the fate of the planet alters forever…
Life hasn’t been easy for Riley Anbar since her grandmother’s death. Between struggling to run the family business, dealing with troubling psychic visions, and puzzling over unanswered questions about the parents she never knew, Riley is doing her best just to get by. After a pair of chance encounters with two mysterious men, Riley finds herself thrust into danger as both human and alien forces converge on her once-ordinary life.
But in this war, there is no clear boundary between good and evil. Both factions are determined to use Riley for their own ends, and they’re willing to endanger everyone around her to achieve their goals. Caught between the two men who have captured her heart and the secrets of her own past, what choice will Riley make when she discovers neither side is in the right?